If the first two singles were any indication, Taylor Swift‘s 7th album Lover is a step backwards, which does the album a huge injustice because beyond these and couple of other tracks, it’s an advancement toward securing her place as one of the great pop singer/songwriters of our time.
Luckily, the tide swiftly turned for the era following the release of the video for Lover, the title track, an atmospheric love ballad that recalls the delicacy of 90s alternative group Mazzy Star’s hit Fade Into You.
Where Swift is best known for writing vengeful songs about exes, this album focuses more on settling into an extended relationship and, perhaps surprisingly (or not), she does it well. From the new-romance lyrics of the smooth pop song Cruel Summer (co-written with St. Vincent and longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff), to the 1-2 step of the carefree non-country country bop Paper Rings, to religious imagery masked behind a sultry sax in the intimate False God, Lover is a joyous album.
But the themes go beyond the honeymoon phase of her relationship. In The Man, she presents the double standards of being a woman in the industry, featuring one of the album’s catchiest bridges. She voices her support for the LGBTQ+ community on You Need To Calm Down (to very mixed results); and in true Swift style of slyly laying multiple themes on top of each other, she blends the traditional high school romance with present-day divisive American politics in Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince.
The one theme that could have been left off is her need to have the last word in a conversation that everyone had already moved on from. The album opens with I Forgot That You Existed, a track meant to serve as an end to her Reputation era, only its presence simply extends it while existing as one of the album’s weakest tracks. A risky way to start an album already marred by two underwhelming singles.
But don’t be fooled. Lover comes with many highlights, and many of these show up in the middle of the record. The nostalgic sentiment of Cornelia Street and heartbreak of Death By A Thousand Cuts cement the worthiness of the record, soon to be followed by the aforementioned False God and the emotional Soon You’ll Get Better, a song Swift wrote for her mother fighting cancer, with backing support from the elusive Dixie Chicks.
At 18 tracks, Lover is an ambitious album. Once again working with Jack Antonoff as co-writer and co-producer for most of the record, there’s little on it that is new territory for Swift, but what she does do is reinforce her talents as a writer and creator. While it contains its fair share of filler, deciding which songs could go would be a challenge as nearly every track has something to offer, even if simply a killer melody (although London Boy and ME! are easy cuts, even with the horrendous “Spelling is fun!” line cut from the latter).
Any goodwill Swift may have lost with Reputation should be back and then some on Lover. She shines brightest when she lets go of the criticisms others have and embraces her own experiences, memories and dreams – and invites the listener to join.
Check out:Lover, False God, Cornelia Street, Paper Rings
1. I Forgot That You Existed
2. Cruel Summer
4. The Man
5. The Archer
6. I Think He Knows
7. Miss Americana And The Heartbreak Prince
8. Paper Rings
9. Cornelia Street
10. Death By A Thousand Cuts
11. London Boy
12. Soon You’ll Get Better [featuring Dixie Chicks]
13. False God
14. You Need To Calm Down
16. ME! [featuring Brendon Urie]
17. It’s Nice To Have A Friend